A Match Made in Maine
A common theme among growing Maine companies is the difficulty in finding, attracting, and hiring talented employees. Some MVF portfolio companies resort to hiring out-of-state remote workers, and have even opened offices in Boston and beyond. This is certainly a drag on Maine’s economic growth, and a complex problem with no one solution. However, one program, aimed squarely at this problem is making a difference – the Innovate for Maine Fellows Program.
The program’s goal is to match talented college students with Maine’s growing companies for an internship of 400, 200, or 100 hours over the course of a summer. Companies are selected for the program based on their interest in innovation, a desire for scalable growth, and ability to provide fellows with a meaningful learning experience. Student interns must either be enrolled in a Maine-based college, or be a Maine resident attending school outside of Maine. All selected fellows are expected to live in Maine and work on-site during the internship.
The program is designed to add no extra burden to the companies. The University of Maine handles all recruiting, screening, matching, payroll, and initial innovation and workplace training. This allows the company and paired fellow to focus on achieving workplace goals.
Several Maine Venture Fund portfolio companies have successfully used this program, including Pika Energy, which has had a number of students intern with them, many of whom have later been hired on full-time. Pika found that what worked best for them was to have the interns work alongside employees on real-time problems, as opposed to having them focus on independent work projects.
“These are very bright and adaptable students,” says Bill Hetzel, Pika’s COO, “which makes for a fairly seamless transition into a company’s work flow.” Interns have been so successful for Pika that a majority of their new employees were interns prior to joining the team full time.
Flexibility and competence seem to be the keys to success for the interns – two attributes that are designed into the Innovate for Maine program. Each fellow receives training at the University of Maine’s ground-breaking Innovation Engineering program, which exposes and trains students in everything from how to develop business models to workplace etiquette training.
If you know an innovative Maine business in need of talented employees or a college student looking for a great summer internship, please share this newsletter and visit the program’s website. Application deadline is February 26, 2018!